There’s an App for that: Drew Brees, Steve Gleason and technology

via Yahoo! Sports

Oh…my…lord.  Peyton and Eli Manning go “Lonely Island Boys” on us and take to the streets of New Orleans in this EPIC music video.   

image

Dear Chris,

Hey man, how’s it going? I would like to sugar coat the meaty contents of this letter by first saying congratulations on making it to the Super Bowl, as you and your 49ers teammates have made the city of San Francisco beam with football pride for the first time in many years.  That is wonderful.

More importantly, I have a personal favor I’d like to ask of you.  Please don’t apologize for your homophobic comments, attempt to rephrase or claim your words were taken out of context. 

I’m not sure even the best and brightest of the PR world could find a way to spin this (courtesy of the Mercury News):

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.

“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”

Culliver suggested that homosexual athletes keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire.

Oy Vey. 

Apparently, Artie Lange is the new Oprah, getting guys like you to open up about such controversial subjects.  Impressive!

Here’s the thing Chris.  Personally, I respect your right to freely discuss your opinions, any time, any place. I’m sure the majority of San Franciscans agree, given the Bay Area’s storied history of the peace movement, freedom of speech and gay rights activism. 

This is why I implore you not to attempt to color these comments as something other than what they are; the dark truth that homophobia and strong anti-gay views remain deeply rooted in the world of professional sports.

Sure, there are other guys sprinkled throughout pro sports, for instance, your fellow NFL pals Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe and Scott Fujita, who are openly supportive of civil rights in this country, including LGBT rights.  But clearly the movement is not yet powerful enough to have impacted you, despite your own team’s efforts to join the cause

While it was a poor business move to publicly reveal your feelings about gays as a member of a San Francisco-based organization, there is no going back so you may as well resign to moving forward.

Should you apologize for hurting people’s feelings or offending them?  That seems fair.  You can stick by something you say while feeling bad that others are hurt by it.  In a weird and twisted way, I actually respect Lance Armstrong for a non-apology he gave Oprah in their sit-down interview.

Instead of taking the apology bait when Oprah asked him if he felt remorse, Armstrong’s response was, “everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught.” Finally, he was honest about something.

Chris, you are strong enough to take the Lance route on this one. 
Don’t be like your Super Bowl opponent Terrell Suggs who, after verbally decimating the "arrogant prick" Patriots, received a talking-to from teammate Ray Lewis, and consequently changed his tune to, “people don’t like them because they win,” in hopes of avoiding backlash.  That’s weak sauce.  Super weak. 

Stick to your beliefs.  Only if you mean it, say you’re sorry for offending anyone and then keep your mouth shut regarding this issue for the rest of the week.

And don’t worry about being excluded or treated as a leper back home in San Francisco after the Super Bowl.  Most of the folks in the Bay are much more accepting than you, so you need not worry.  It’s all good.  In fact, I bet you’ll be even more popular upon your return, as the locals will surely stop you on the street for a quick chat from time to time, in hopes that maybe, just maybe their open-mindedness might rub off on you. 

Sincerely,
Jackie

UPDATE:  Well, looks like Chris didn’t read my letter.  Bummer.

49ers statement, on behalf of Chris Culliver:

"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

                   

If there was ever a time to defend Jeremy Shockey, it’s right now.   Any media member siding with the brute tight end was a seemingly unfathomable anomaly until a single tweet turned the tides 24 hours ago. 

Former NFL defensive tackle and current television football analyst Warren Sapp used Twitter to reveal the alleged source behind the “bounty-gate” scandal which rocked the New Orleans Saints after the league heavily penalized the organization on Wednesday.

Here is a screen grab of the Twitter exchange between Sapp and Shockey, the former Saints player cited by Sapp as the whistleblower:

 

Sapp later appeared on television to support his claim: 

"I was sitting in the production meeting getting ready for the day and my source that was close to the situation informed me that Jeremy Shockey was the snitch initially. So I went with that. I trust my source unequivocally because he is right on top of the situation. I understand what this is. Shockey comes out and says that he’s not.  We just found out who ‘Deep Throat’ was and he almost died. I understand. Whenever you inform something of this caliber, your identity should be protected, but I was given that information and I went with it by a reliable source that I know."

The issue is no longer whether or not Shockey slipped the Saints’ secrets to somebody at the league office.   Instead, the focus has shifted to the way in which Sapp, now a member of the national media, handled the alleged information. 

First, the relationship between a journalist and a source is so scared that the United States government has laws protecting it.  Reporters have served jail time rather than reveal their sources whom they vowed to protect at all costs. 

A different kind of source can often be found in police stations, office buildings and even inside private homes.  Countless cases of criminal activity, abuse, workplace corruption and various injustices have been stopped by people brave enough to speak up under the cloak of anonymity. 

One could argue that it is a journalist’s job to find the “source” who reported the Saints’ offenses to the league, resulting in one of the most extensive and harsh punishments in NFL history.  While it would serve virtually no purpose at this point, sure, revealing that person’s identity would be newsworthy.  On the other hand, as any journalist who claims to be more than just a TV talking head, who, dare I say studied the profession in college should know, sources and their information are to be used with great caution.  Aside from treading lighting to protect the source, a journalist must protect him or herself as well because anonymous sources are often wrong and unreliable. 

Journalists typically use the term “whistleblower,”  as the word implies dignity in telling a very hard truth in order to stop wrongdoing.  While perhaps shunned by peers, a whistleblower  is well-respected by others who understand the guts it takes to stand up and do what is right.

On the streets, in tougher neighborhoods than 280 Park Avenue, “snitch” is used to perpetuate negativity and shame, often preventing brave folks with morals from taking that final, frightening step necessary to stop criminal behavior. 

The league office is not an NYPD precinct.  A professional football field is not the corner store where s%$& goes down.  Using the term “snitch” in reference to a sports scandal is absolutely reckless. 

Outing a source is a delicate action that should be reserved for someone with foresight, hesitation and critical thinking that goes beyond dropping an info-bomb on your Twitter timeline.  

Shockey has tried just about everything to rid himself of the “snitch” stigma, including offering to participate in a polygraph test on live television and publishing a text message conversation with Sean Payton in which the suspended Saints head coach appears to absolve Shockey of any bounty-gate related sins.

But none of that matters because the damage has been done.  Shockey, a 10-year veteran already known for being outspoken (a euphemism in his case), will have a tough time getting picked up by another organization (he is a free agent) as players will fear that their secrets are no longer safe in the locker room, training room and other closed-door areas of team facilities. 

More importantly, outing the alleged source will prevent other players from coming forward and reporting infractions for fear of damage not only to their reputation but also to relationships with teammates and coaches.  Then there’s always retaliation and plenty of other unpleasantries associated with being a “snitch.”  p

It will be very interesting to watch how the fallout plays out in the court of public opinion, inside the league office, and out on the football field in the years to come. 

                       

The Goodell Hammer came down hard on the New Orleans Saints and head coach Sean Payton Wednesday in the wake of a bounty scandal causing a major commotion in the NFL. 

In punishing the coach-sponsored program in which Saints defensive players were paid varying cash rewards for injuring opposing players during games, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reinforced his reputation as a stern disciplinarian who isn’t afraid to make an example of his subjects. 

Payton received a wealth of Goodell’s wrath, incurring a year-long suspension, making him the first head coach in NFL history to ever be suspended.  Former Saints and current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, Saints GM Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight regular-season games without pay, Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt will sit out the first six games of the regular season and the team itself will be fined $500,000 along with forfeiting second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. 

While the punishment is indeed historic given its severity, I actually think it could have been significantly worse for the Saints.  Given Goodell’s track record of harshly disciplining players who make mistakes off the field (see: Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, Michael Vick, etc.), I expected the commissioner to perhaps do the unthinkable in attempts to quash an illegal practice that is, unfortunately, not unique to the Saints. 

I feared Goodell would vacate the team’s wins from 2009-2011, which would include the Saints incredible Super Bowl run.  Sure, “vacating wins” and taking something out of the record books doesn’t erase it from our memories, but the stench of corruption and shame alone is enough to want to forget something that once evoked such sweetness and pleasure. 

Sadly, a bounty program such as this is nothing new in the world of sports, but two things set the Saints apart from others who have engaged in such behavior: 

1)  The details of their pay-for-performance system were made painfully public
2)  They got caught during a transition period for the league in terms of heightened awareness of the medical dangers of football and the attempt at increasing safety measures in games.

Does the following sound conducive to making the game safer and trying to win lawsuits against former players suing the league?

"The NFL said the scheme involved 22 to 27 defensive players; targeted opponents included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner," according to an ESPN.com article. " ‘Knockouts’ were worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.  According to the league, Saints defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any player who knocked then-Vikings QB Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game."

Yikes.

Football is a violent sport and players are trained from an early age to embrace the brutality of the game, but with what we now know about the dangers of concussions, including the newly-discovered link between head trauma and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), somebody needs to step in and save these guys from themselves.

I appreciate the fact that Roger Goodell has the stones to do what’s best for the future of these young men, regardless of what the players, coaches, owners or fans think.  The league isn’t perfect, and yes, there are other ways in which ownership hurts players but at least this is a step in the right direction in one area of the game.  For that, I say ‘good job’ Goodell. 


Are the Saints serious? Slapping the franchise tag on Drew Brees is more of a slap in the face than if they were to just cut him loose and let him make the big bucks elsewhere. 

Despite my displeasure with New Orleans franchising Brees, the quarterback who led the franchise to its first ever Super Bowl victory, I see what drove them to do it as both sides put each other in this situation. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Brees is asking for a contract that pays him an average of $23 million per year while the Saints aren’t willing to top the $18 million per year mark.  Colts QB Peyton Manning is averaging $23 million per year over the first three years of his new contract (I know, let’s not even go there with P.Manning) while Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback is earning about $18 million annually over the lifetime of his contract, should he fulfill it, as is. 

On one hand, $23 million is a LOT of money.  It’s not like Brees can’t get by on $18 million per year.  But if we look beyond what seems like common sense to us average-earning Joes, it makes sense that Brees should earn a paycheck equivalent to that of Peyton Manning, a fellow top-tier quarterback (again, we will ignore Peyton’s neck issues for the purposes of this blog, and my sanity).  Heck, Brees beat Manning en route to Super Bowl 44 proving just how special of a quarterback he is.  Plus, it’s not like the Saints can’t afford to pay Brees that kind of money.  They can. 

I understand that because the two sides could not come to an agreement, the Saints feel it necessary to franchise Brees so he can’t go elsewhere which buys them not only Brees’ services for around $16 million (which will cost the Saints $14.4 million against the salary cap ), but gives them another year to try to get a deal done. 

Best case scenario for Brees is that this is a purely strategic move by the Saints and both sides can see it as a means to a happy end.  The franchise tag keeps him tethered to New Orleans during the off-season, thus buying time for Brees and Saints management to come to a long-term agreement before July 16.  At that point, franchised players can only sign 1-year contracts.

The worst case scenario paints an ugly picture of Saints management.  Putting Brees - a future Hall of Fame player who restored glory and respect to your franchise even before winning the Super Bowl - in a position to potentially suffer a career-ending injury with zero financial stability is shameful.  It’s an irresponsible decision that lacks even a hint of loyalty or morality. 

If the Saints somehow think that the last six seasons of success have been a fluke, or that the 33-year-old is on the decline (despite throwing 46 touchdown passes and a record-breaking 5476 yards passing in this last season), then they need to do some serious soul searching, quit any substances they may be abusing, and get a reality check.

I can appreciate the hesitation in doling out a multi-year deal worth this kind of money for ANYBODY.  I get it.  So if that is the issue, why not sign Brees to a two-year deal (with a third-year option) worth somewhere between $21-$23 million a year?  I would think both sides would agree to that.  In fact, it’s still a much better deal for the Saints than for Brees, but perhaps, with his sense of loyalty and love for that community, he might just take it?

Maybe not.  Either way, I feel like this has to be the worst possible outcome for Brees.  Sure, it’s great for the Saints but I’m shocked that they would pull this with a man that has truly meant so much to the city and its people. 

After turning down the Chargers’ contract offer heading into the 2006 season,  Brees only drew interest from a few teams on the open market as he was coming off of a gruesome shoulder injury that required surgery.  Brees went with the Saints and grateful for the opportunity, he took control of the team and the city the moment he set foot in the Big Easy, bringing happiness and spirit back to the region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.  Brees and his teammates never looked back, chugging away until they won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season. 

Brees was a fixture of the players union during the lockout and it’s ironic that he could very well get screwed by this policy. 

You’d better believe we’re going to see a chippier Drew Brees in 2012.  I would play angry if my team did me like that, and while Brees certainly has nothing to prove, he does have millions of potential dollars on the line.

This game has all kinds of possibilities, so here’s my take on the Saints at 49ers game, posted on smacchat.com.  Click the heading above to read the article.

 

Bengals at Texans

A playoff win for either the Houston Texans or Cincinnati Bengals would have been a feel good story given both teams’ histories.   While the  31-10 Texans victory was certainly fantastic for the organization and its fans, it doesn’t change the fact that most of the game was ugly as hell!

This one was sloppy for both teams for quite some time, but finally, the Houston defense came alive, starting with rookie J.J. Watt’s pick six late in the first half.  The D really started to gel midway through the third quarter and it was all Texans all the time from that point on.

In their first playoff game in franchise history (can you believe Andre Johnson had never played in a postseason game?  A sports travesty, I know), the Texans and their fans were fired up!  Calling Reliant Stadium “loud” would be an understatement and I think that once the Texans got rid of the nerves, the players allowed the crowd to help them take down the Bengals.

Arian Foster attributed nerves to his shaky start, saying after the game, “I was so excited, took a lot of sugar before the game, so had to get that out.”

Foster got it out alright rushing for 153 yards on 24 carries, along with 29 receiving yards on three catches.  Foster’s two touchdowns were both spectacular; his 42-yard run through the entire Bengals defense was one of the best plays of the year. 

Along with Foster, Texans’ rookie quarterback, third-stringer T.J. Yates impressed (11-20, 159 yards), as did fellow rookie QB Andy Dalton (24-42, 257 yards) for Cincinnati.  Despite falling victim to the pressure cooker that was the Texans defense, Dalton, who was sacked four times, has plenty of talent and will improve with time and better offensive players around him.

In the end, the Texans had zero turnovers, the Bengals had three, all interceptions which weren’t necessarily Dalton’s fault, but were damaging nonetheless leading to 14 points, accounting for nearly half of Houston’s scoring.  That hurts.


Still in the game trailing 17-10, Bengals DB Chris Crocker dropped a sure-interception that could’ve been a game-changer, as finally, momentum might have shifted in Cincinnati’s favor.  That felt like a clear turning point where the Bengals defense seemed to resign and hang their heads. 

While the loss drops Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to 0-4 all time in playoff games, the Texans not only played its first postseason game in its 10-year history, but Gary Kubiak and the gang managed to win it.  Even sweeter, the fact that Johnson, who played only in seven games this season due to injury, played great and scored a touchdown in the victory. 

Heading into this season, this was thought to be “the Texans’ year,” as the rest of the AFC South looked awful for various reasons.  Of course, nothing came easy as Foster missed games with a hamstring injury, LB Mario Williams was lost for the season, Johnson couldn’t stay healthy and then the Texans lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub before losing backup Matt Leinart in his first game as starter.  Imagine where the Texans might be had they stayed relatively healthy?  My guess is they’d be relaxing somewhere on the bye week watching Wildcard weekend on TV.

Instead, the Texans’ reward for beating the Bengals is a date with the Ravens in Baltimore in the divisional round.  Enjoy the win Houston, at least for tonight, as it’s gonna take one hell of a game plan to stomp the birds in Baltimore. 

Lions at Saints

Going into the Lions vs. Saints game, I knew the home team would be tough to beat in the Superdome, but I also figure Detroit, making its first playoff appearance since 1999, could steal a victory if New Orleans was having an off night.  Unfortunately for the Lions, the Saints were nearly perfect after halftime, leaving the Lions in the dust with a 45-28 victory.

The first half belonged to the Lions, but not by much as Detroit only led 14-10 heading into the third quarter.  Usually, Calvin Johnson is an outside receiver, but the Lions  switched things up, putting him in the slot, where he didn’t get hammered one-on-one like he would down the sidelines.  The move paid off as Johnson had five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

As for the Saints, they played quite well aside from two fumbles which didn’t produce any points for the Lions, but still managed to slow that killer New Orleans offense.   After the game, QB-extraordinaire Drew Brees said, “we stopped ourselves a few times.”

According to head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions problems were as follows:
"We missed opportunities to make interceptions, we failed on 3rd and 4th downs, and we tackled poorly too."

That sounds about right coach!  The Saints beat out the Lions in time of possession by more than 15 minutes as New Orleans notched 34 first downs to Detroit’s 22.  How about this;  the Saints were successful on 3 of 4 fourth down conversions!

I almost expected to see the Sean Payton pull out the old onside kick to start the second half, a la Super Bowl XLIV, but then figured, naaahhh, it’s not desperation time just yet.  The Saints wouldn’t need it.

In the opening drive of the third quarter, Brees aired it out to Devery Henderson for a 41-yard touchdown, and after the Lions ensuing possession (which resulted in a punt), the Saints led a 82-yard touchdown drive complete with a Brees QB sneak on fourth down. 

In other words, the Saints played like the Saints.  Aside from a first-half fumble, the Lions defense failed to pressure Brees who went 33-34 for 466 yard passing, and three touchdowns.  Like in the Bengals vs. Texans game, Lions DB Aaron Berry missed a gimmee interception when a Brees’ pass went right through his fingertips in the fourth quarter.

As for the New Orleans receiving corps, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem each logged more than 100 receiving yards while seemingly every other guy on offense got his in between.  Darren Sproles was also fantastic catching and running for a combined 85 yards and two touchdowns, as the little man has proven to be a key pickup for this year’s team. Ya think San Diego is regretting letting him off the hook and not paying up?  I bet so!

The Lions played well on offense also.  Matt Stafford is no slouch.  Did you know that like Brees, he too passed for over 5,000 yards this season?  Wild!  As for the wildcard game, Stafford passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were to Johnson who lived up to his Megatron moniker finishing the contest with 211 yards on 12 receptions.  But that wouldn’t be enough as the Saints defense came alive in the second half, intercepting Stafford twice in the fourth quarter, squashing any chances of a Detroit comeback.  The Saints defense held the Lions to only 32 yards on the ground while the New Orleans running backs found a way to weave through the Detroit defense for 167 yards rushing, led by Pierre Thomas (66 yards, TD). 

At this point, I can’t ever bet against the Saints offense.  They scored five touchdowns against the Lions in the second half, and remember, Detroit was a pretty good second-half team through most of the season.  Drew Brees is on another planet and with the help of a powerful offensive line and great position players around him, I think only the Saints can stop themselves at this point.

Unfortunately for us at home, we won’t get to see a Jim vs. Jim Handshake-gate rematch between Schwartz’ Lions and Harbaugh’s 49ers in the divisional round next week, but Saints at 49ers should be a treat nonetheless.  The Saints high-flying offense against a tough as nails 49ers defense in San Francisco should not disappoint.  As for the Lions, its back to the den until next season.  Hopefully Schwartz will keep himself in check and discipline his players accordingly so the Lions can improve and stay in the hunt for several seasons to come. 

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images, Ronald Martinez and Bob Levey)

   
No, Dolphins running back Reggie Bush didn’t buy Bentleys or Escalades (those are so 2001, I know) for his teammates on the offensive line;  Instead, Bush bought the big men who helped him record the best statistical season of his NFL career something out of the ordinary: the environmentally friendly yet semi-nerdy Segway PT.

Each lineman received a Segway (worth around $6,000 each, according to NFL.com) as a token of Bush’s appreciation for the role they played in helping him log his first +1,000-yard rushing season since entering the league in 2006.  After winning a Super Bowl with the Saints in New Orleans two seasons ago, Bush, in his first season with the Dolphins, notched 1,086 yards and six touchdowns rushing and 296 yards and one touchdown receiving through 15 games.  Bush will not play in the Dolphins season finale against the Jets on Sunday. 

Here’s the gift-giving play-by-play (the two photos he posted with the tweets are pictured above, left and right), care of Bush’s twitter account:

@reggie_bush: Just bought the whole offensive Line Segways!!!! I think they like them!
 
@reggie_bush: They are riding around the parking lot like little kids in a candy store! LMAO!
 
@reggie_bush:  Direct Quote from the O Line: “This is the coolest gift I’ve ever received!” Mission Complete!

While the Dolphins won’t make the playoffs, finishing the season with at least five wins (with the possibility of a sixth) is somewhat of a pleasant surprise after Miami’s 0-7 start.  If you recall, Bush was the center of controversy after comments he made following the Denver Bronco’s 18-15 OT comeback victory over the Dolphins (who led 15-0 in the fourth quarter), handing Miami it’s sixth consecutive loss.  After his team got Tebow’d, Bush said, “Right now, this team stinks,” which made for a dicey locker room situation after several of his teammates publicly expressed their displeasure with his comments. 

Bush went on to defend his “stinky” statement, saying, “I do stink. We all stink. When it comes to 0-6, everybody stinks. We’ve all, in some way, shape or form have not been good enough, and that’s what I meant with those comments.  I don’t care if it’s the front desk secretary—she ain’t doing a good enough job. Everybody’s in this thing together.”

Apparently, Bush’s tough love motivational approach seemed to work, but on a one-week delay.  The Fins lost one more game after the Denver debacle but then rattled off three straight W’s.

Perhaps Reggie was right at the end of the day, and now he and his offensive lineman can ride off into the offseason sunset together…on Segways. 

                        

First he tried to de-helmet the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith before stomping on homie’s arm on Thanksgiving.  As a result, he got suspended for two games without pay and then while on leave, he crashed his ride into some local scenery in Oregon.  It’s been a crappy 10 days for Ndamukong Suh. 

While the Detroit Lions were preparing to take on the Saints in New Orleans without their star defensive tackle, Suh was involved in a nasty single car crash, hitting a curb, light pole, drinking fountain and a tree, according to KOIN-TV in Portland.

KOIN reports that police responded to the accident at 1:15 a.m. Saturday after the 24-year-old lost control of his car resulting in the accident.

"Officers spoke with Suh and determined that he was not impaired and simply lost control of his vehicle," reported KOIN on the station’s website.  "Neither Suh nor his two passengers were injured in the crash and Suh was polite and cooperative with the officers, according to police."

Suh, who graduated from Grant High School in Portland was driving a 1970 Chevy Coupe which was towed from the scene.

According to an update from the Portland Police Bureau, Suh was trying to get around a stopped taxicab in the street when he lost control as the back end of the vehicle spun out. The press release says Suh was not issued a citation and the department “does not perform traffic crash investigations for non-injury, non-DUI crashes.”

The good news here is two-fold… Most importantly, nobody was injured, but another saving grace is that Suh was not driving drunk.  Aside from legal implications, a DUI would result in several missed games, a major financial hit, and even more guaranteed alone time with the Commish himself, Roger Goodell. 

Suh seems to be stuck in a rut coupled with some bad karma.  Hopefully this accident will serve as a wake up call for the young man.  While he might be big, strong and talented, he’s not invincible and needs to act accordingly, both on and off the field.